Publicly, the NFL predictably is maintaining a stiff upper lip in the immediate wake of an adverse ruling in the “lockout insurance” case. Privately, the league surely is having trouble controlling an altogether different orifice.
“As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included,” the league said in a statement posted by Greg Aiello on his Twitter page. “Today’s ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement.”
It’s a huge factor. It’s real leverage for the union, something the union hasn’t really had. Until now, the league has had the union over a barrel, threatening to take football away from the players and the fans until the players cry, “Uncle!” Now, the players know that a lockout lasting into the season will hurt the owners as much or more, since the money needed to service the debt will have to come from somewhere, and it possibly won’t come from the networks.
After months of losing, the players are winning. And some of the folks on the owners’ side of the table would be wise to drop the hubris and start treating the players like partners again, instead of like employees.